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Sam Pollock & Art Preis

“What If a Foreign Army Invaded Our Country?”
Stalinist Jingoes Ask

(16 November 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 47, 16 November 1935, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

TOLEDO, O, Nov. 4.“We can’t be against government sanctions. What would we do if an invading army attacked our homes?” This was not the statement of the Liberty League, nor an appeal by “Stinker” Hearst against the Red and Yellow perils, nor even a quotation from the constitution of the National Civic Federation. It was the full-blown wisdom donated to the Northwest District Conference of the American League Against War and Fascism, November 2–3, by a leading Detroit member of the Communist Party.

Fearful lest his party comrades might not make the position of the C.P. on imperialist sanctions sufficiently clear, Francis Murphy, local secretary and organizer of the American League, stated, “The American League is not concerned, with League of Nations sanctions. The U.S. is not a member of the League. Therefore, we are not concerned about the actions of the League of Nations.” Reinforcements were brought from the rear to support Murphy, when Sam Sponseller, New America organizer, emphatically stated, “The American League is against all wars.”

These were the arguments used to “prove” that a resolution against imperialist sanctions, submitted by Sam Pollock, a W.P. member who represented the Lucas County Unemployed League, was “pacifist.” The resolution, which was undoubtedly the most important submitted and the only one even discussed or disputed, was permitted only six minutes of debate (two speakers from each side, limited to three minutes apiece) by the mechanical control of the C.P. and its stooges. The resolution, which exposed the entire jingoistic Stalinist structure of the American League, is here quoted in its entirety:

“1. Resolved: That this conference goes on record against any war engaged in by American imperialism; and be it further

“2. Resolved: That this conference does not recognize any idea that justifies support of one’s imperialist country during war, because that country {has an allegedly democratic form of government, against ft country in which fascism or reaction are in power. Any such war would still be an imperialistic war, a war of despoliation and conquest and would not be and could not be in the interests of the overwhelming majority of the peoples; and be it further

“3. Resolved: That this conference is against extending any support to any sanctions that the U. S. government may apply to Italy in the present controversy; such sanctions being only a prelude to a new imperialist war and a world-wide slaughter of the masses of the world; and be it further

“4. Resolved: That this conference support only working-class sanctions against Italy, in the form of strikes, refusal to handle Italian goods, etc., etc.

                                                                                                                          Lucas County Unemployed League.”

The conference had its auspicious start Saturday, Nov. 2, at a luncheon meeting ($1.00 per plate) at ritzy, Jim-Crow Commodore Perry Hotel, held in honor of Dr. Harry F. Ward, titular national head of the American League. This was followed in the evening by a “monster,” “gigantic” “People’s” rally against war at the huge Civic Auditorium (seating capacity 5,600). After titanic preparations, 300 of the masses were lured into the echoing desolation of the auditorium to hear Dr. Ward and such other fighters against war and fascism as Charles Hoover, vice-mayor of Toledo and an official of the Auto-Lite Co.

Resolutions were finally submitted to the evening session, which started late and from which a great share of the delegates were absent. Prior to the report of the resolutions committee, the C.P. majority bloc took the precautions to limit the debate to two delegates for either side of an issue with three minutes apiece. In its report, the resolutions committee “overlooked” the Unemployed League resolution against sanctions. When attention was called to this omission, the chairman hastily reported non-concurrence by the committee, but refused to give the reason for this position.

Trade Unionists Balk

When the recorded vote on the resolution was taken, of the 36 delegates present, 26 delegates, all of Stalinist or New America connections, voted as a bloc against it. Three delegates, including 2 bona-fide representatives of large trade union groups, endorsed the resolution. The remainder of the delegates, representing unions and other genuine mass groups, abstained from voting. Several of the abstainers later stated to Sam Pollock, “What was the use of voting? he meeting was stacked.”

Besides Sam Pollock, a militant trade unionist, representing a local of over 1,500 members, took the floor in support of the resolution, emphasizing in brief and straightforward terms, “Here the government is preparing 24 hours a day for a new war, with most of the money coming from relief funds in one form or another. This is the government which clubs us and jails us, and do you want us workers to support the sanctions of such a government?”

The only resolutions passed on the question of war were on a boycott of Italy and Germany and a protest to Japan. The whole question of sanctions was deliberately avoided.

While this farcical “conference” was dragging out its fruitless end, another meeting was being held a short distance away at the Toledo Workers School Hall, the regular Open Forum of the local W.P. Comrade Burke Cochran gave a splendid and eagerly attended talk on the 55th Convention of the A.F. of L. before a full audience of workers, the largest share of whom were active trade union progressives. There was no gag-rule at this meeting, for the floor was given over to an hour and a half of free and open discussion, with members of the auto union and other A.F. of L. groups and the M.E.S.A. participating.

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